The botanist is back!

Wow – I have not written a real blog post in over two months! The last few months are honestly a bit of a blur with finishing up my degree, but I am happy to say that I’ve now defended my MS thesis in Botany and Plant Pathology and I am ready to be back with some new and exciting posts. Thank you for not forgetting about me and thanks to those of you that have still been referring to many of my old posts in my absence, you guys are the best!

In other good news, as a present for passing my mama bought me Ball’s newest invention, pictured below, the FreshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner and Multi-Cooker. This is their picture however, as I don’t actually have it yet (it’s only available for pre-order right now). If you want one, I’d recommend clicking on the link above to amazon since I got free shipping through amazon prime and Ball wants $23 for shipping directly from their site. But anyways – I am super excited about this beast. For one, it’s electric so it frees up one of your burners, and still has the same capacity as a normal full sized canner. This is also a great thing if you have a glass top stove that can be a problem for canning. Also it has a temperature control, so this saves so much headache when you want to do low temperature pasteurization of your pickles! SO AWESOME! However, it doesn’t look to me like it’s actually got temperatures on there, only low, medium, and high, so that’s a bit of a bummer. I’m thinking though that using a thermometer I should be able to pretty easily figure out where to turn it to to keep it at 180-185 F. Then I can mark it on there for the future; but I’ll have to update you on that when it arrives. The electric canner I’ve used for canning class has actual temperatures on it, but no where can I find it for sale (and Janice said it was twice the price of Ball’s when she got them too). See this post for more info on low temp processing of pickles. Finally, it has a spout on the bottom which means no more almost killing yourself dumping out the hot water from the canner. This thing is way cooler than Ball’s last invention, the auto canner. It has a 3 quart capacity – no thank you! For half the price of that thing, which frankly I think is a dumb invention, you can have this awesome canner with a normal capacity and not be limited to only their specific recipes. Note though, this is just hot water bath, not a pressure canner.

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So now that I’m back, I wanted to let you in on what I’m planning for the blog. One thing I’m working on is a new resources tab, which will include things like extension service publications and other resources for safe recipes. I’ve found that it can be hard to find these things online and in one place. Each university extension service often only has their pubs, but there are always valuable and interesting resources missing. Each time I refer to a new publication or tool I use, I’ll add it to that page so that these great resources are easy to find and access.

Anyways, there are many fun new posts coming at you soon. I can’t wait for spring and to get back into canning and gardening (although it’s actually starting to feel like spring here already!) The early spring crops will probably be starting soon!

Is there anything you’d like to see from the blog this season?

Eat It! Brie and Inferno Wine Jelly

My first “Eat It!” post is going to be short and sweet. Inferno Wine Jelly is amazing with brie and crackers. Dinner party coming up? Brie and homemade jelly. Presto appetizer! So good. Plus it’s the perfect colours for Christmas if you make it with green and red peppers!

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So delicious I have a belly ache from eating too much.

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Year End Canning Reflection

When in the world did it get to be mid December?! I can’t believe. At this time of year, most of us have entered our “net loss” phase from the pantry – i.e. we are now eating more than we are putting up. Because of this, I think it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the things we have preserved this year, and on things we were wishing we had taken better advantage of while they were in season, so we can prepare for next year. Here’s a look at my canning list – just over 600 jars, not including the things I did in MFP class. This may partially explain why I haven’t yet defended my masters… Anyways, before judging me on this crazy list, keep in mind that I often can with a friend, so for many of these large batches I only kept half. I also canned jams for two different weddings, so only about 10% of this jam is actually in my house currently.

Jams and Jelly – 214 jars (ya…I know)

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22 rhubarb orange jam
8 strawberry rhubarb jam
8 strawberry lemon marmalade
46 strawberry jam
5 kiwi daiquiri jam
6 cherry marmalade
36 raspberry jam
26 blueberry lime jam
15 orange marmalade
12 zesty watermelon jelly
12 watermelon jelly
6 habanero jelly
6 inferno wine jelly
6 blueberry butter

Summary  – I definitely went crazy, but actually compared to last year it’s not that bad. I did 95 last year and sure I gifted some of them, but this year a massive percent were wedding favours.

Other fruit things – 46 jars

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4 jars cherry pie filling
8 pints strawberry lemonade concentrate
4 pints rhubarb juice concentrate
5 pints cranberry juice
12 half pint Asian plum sauce
9 pints Victorian barbecue sauce
4 half pints cranberry mustard

I am pretty happy with these items, and I certainly think I will eat it all. I do moderately regret not doing a couple other pie fillings as having those is super super nice for when a potluck catches you by surprise. Otherwise yay fruits!

Pickling – 77 jars

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3 quarts refrigerator pickles
20+? jars dill pickles
19 jars pickled carrots
8 pints zesty zucchini relish
9 pints pickled asparagus
14 pints dilly beans
4 quarts sauerkraut

Other than forgetting to pickle beets, my pickling was pretty good this year. And with discovering low temperature pasteurization my pickles are better than ever. Somehow I totally lost track of my cucumber pickle numbers though. My list said 12 – but I am sure I made at least 3 times that considering my pickling experiment alone was 9…but anyways.

Tomatoes – 189 jars

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8 quarts crushed tomatoes
35 pints tomato sauce
115 pints salsa
14 pints two in one barbecue sauce
9 pints ketchup
8 jars tomato “jam”

Yes…115 jars of salsa. I know, I know… I think about 65 went to me. This number makes me very very happy. Last year I had about 40, and I had a couple left when tomato season hit, so we should be golden. I was super stingy with gifting these so this year my family may get a jar or two… maybe. 😉 The only thing I kind of would have liked more of is just plain crushed tomatoes. They have so many versatile uses!

Pressure canning – 82 jars

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22 half pints corn
38 half pints tuna
16 jars spicy tomato vegetable soup
6 pints chicken stock

I am pretty happy with my pressure canning additions to my pantry, and actually a little surprised I didn’t do more. But this winter I plan to do some more stock, dried beans, and other things not necessarily season dependent. Winter is a good time to stock up on chicken, beef or ham stock. Ya, very bad pun intended.

Of course this is just canning, I also froze and dehydrated a lot of things. All the berries I froze are already eaten sadly, I need a bigger freezer, but not the freezer jam and dehydrated goods.

How was your 2014 season? Anything you missed out on that you definitely are planning on for next year?

To conclude, I’d like to introduce a new series of posts I’m starting this winter entitled “Eat it!”, which will feature recipe ideas for using all the delicious things we preserve. Like many other preservation bloggers, I have a little less to talk about during the off season, and I think that talking about ways to use the things we preserve is just as important as how to preserve it. There is no point in putting up 500 jars of goodies if you ain’t gonna eat it! I hope to get creative with these and help you use up some of those items lingering in your pantry, and give you some ideas for things you might want to preserve next season.

Gifts from the Kitchen

If you love food preservation as much as I do, you’ve probably given some food related gifts to family and friends in the past. Mostly I’ve given people things like jams, jellies and pickled goods I’ve made, and decorated cutely as below, but there are so many other gifts that we can give from the kitchen! So, with the holiday season coming up, the Master Food Preservers offered a class called “Gifts from the Kitchen” offering some inspiration and ideas for gifts for the various people in your lives. Teaching this class was a blast and people really had a good time so I wanted to share some of the ideas here that we talked about, and hopefully inspire you to get thinking about some gifts you might like to make in the next month. I thought I would get this post up today in honour of “cyber Monday”, so that maybe we can also be thinking of some homemade gifts on this massive shopping day. Maybe you could make something to accompany or replace a purchased gift, and I’ll offer a couple ideas here to pair a purchased gift with a homemade one.

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The most common gifts from the kitchen of course are canned goodies that you’ve made with love. I like to decorate them with little pieces of cloth, which are actually just quilting cloth squares or scraps from the craft store. Tie a cute ribbon around it and grab some cute tags, and presto gifto! However, when gifting preserved items there are a few other things you should remember. Of course always make sure you are following safe, tested recipes. If you want to play with things not tested that’s your own business, but always be safe when gifting items. It’s a nice touch to add an ingredient list and any information you think people may be interested in knowing, such as when the food was canned, how it was canned, whether it’s low sugar, things like that. It can be nice to put your initials on there or something too so people remember who it’s from (I know people trust my canned goods but maybe not everyone’s). If you want to give canned gifts but don’t have anything on hand, we talked about a few different things that you can still preserve now, which are pictured below. These include, pepper jellies, citrus jellies, jams or marmalade, cranberry jams or jellies (or check out the cranberry mustard I just posted), apple butters and applesauce. The green tomatoes are probably done for most of you now, but green tomato salsa is also an option if you still have some kicking around. There are also a number of other mustard recipes in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving that look really intriguing and can be prepared at basically any time of year, so I plan to try out some more of those soon too. I think it would be really nice to give a couple different ones. The 4 oz jars get harder to find in some areas this time of year, but luckily they are still online here for about the same price.

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Great! What else can we gift? Here is a sampling of some of the things we talked about or made in class, and I’ll talk in a bit more detail below about each of these. Here we have, from left to right, lime jelly and pepper jelly, a dry bean soup mix, a snowman of hot cocoa, flavoured vinegars and two different spice rubs in the front.

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We had a number of stations where people got to make items to take home, and my station was hot cocoa. You had a couple options on how to arrange your cocoa into the jar, but if you search the internet there are a ton of other ways to do it too, and they are so cute and creative!

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I did mine as a snowman (the guy on the left). I got this idea from my nana, who made them a number of years ago for Christmas gifts, but I made mine a little differently, using just one canning jar. All I did for mine was mix 1 part cocoa powder to 2 parts sugar, but you can also follow other recipes with dried milk in them as well. The one we did in class was 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup dried milk, 1/2 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (or to fill the jar) mini marshmallows. Then, make a head out of marshmallows and decorate the jar with a scarf, face and hat made of cut out construction paper and a painted band and lid. Adorable. One of the girls in the class made this girl snowman who became buddies with mine.

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Get creative and have fun with it! All I did was spray paint lids and bands black, draw on a face and glue on some buttons and a scarf and he turned out adorable.

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Alternatively, you can make some cute layers in the jar or bag you put it in.

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Another station that we did was a dried soup mix. Simply layer a variety of beans in a jar. We did equal parts kidney beans, white lima beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, small red beans, black eyed peas, barley, and then half as much of the split peas and lentils. To fit in one pint jar, you need 1/4 cup of each (about 1/8 for the lentils and split peas). We then also included a spice packet, and here’s an example of what it could contain: 1/4 cup minced dried onion, 2 tbsp dried celery (we dried our own to be even more homemade), 1 tbsp bouillon (vegetable, beef, or chicken), 2 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp ground red pepper, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper.

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If giving a gift like this, it would also be nice to include some sort of recipe on how you would recommend preparing the soup. Including a recipe such as this one would work great. I prepared the spice packet to match the spices in this soup, but adjust this however you enjoy your bean soup, and share a family recipe or something. Additionally, a nice pairing to a gift like this could be your favourite cookbook. They turn out quite pretty when layered in the jars rather than blended.

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Another station we did was preparing spice rubs. The one pictured is a steak rub adapted from Family Circle Magazine (November 2012). It contains 1 tbsp kosher salt, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1.5 tsp dried minced onion, 1 tsp dried minced garlic, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.

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Simply stir all the ingredients together and package it in a cute way, such as in a little baggie or jar with a bow. Be sure to include the ingredient list, and perhaps a suggested usage. For example, Steak rub: rub 1 tsp spice mix onto both sides of a 1.5 pound steak and grill or broil as desired. A great idea for gifting this might be give it to someone who loves grilling, and include a book on grilling along with the homemade spice rubs.

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Another rub that we did that is really delicious is a lemon cumin rub. It contained: 1/4 cup ground cumin, 2 tbsp grated lemon peel, 2 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp ground cardamom, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper, 1 tbsp cayenne pepper and 2 tbsp dried oregano. This rub is great on chicken. To prepare, dip meat in a mixture of 1 tbsp brown sugar to 2 tbsp water, then apply 1 tbsp of the rub. Let it stand in the fridge for 4-6 hours, then grill. If you are going to do spice rubs though, it can get a little spendy, so buying in bulk is always a great idea. Use home dried herbs too where you can for an added homemade touch. Some things you won’t have though, and they can be hard to find cheap (or at all) so I really like to get things from Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a huge herb selection and they also have bulk discounts if you are buying a ton. They also have some really fun salts and peppers which could also by themselves make fun gifts. Fill a few different 4 oz or 8 oz jars with a variety of different salts and peppers and decorate them for someone who loves to cook.

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The final station was an apple crumble recipe from The Dehydrator Bible (which itself is a great gift). This is a great gift for a camper and includes 1/2 cup dried apple slices (dry your own at home in your dehydrator), 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp dried lemon zest (optional), 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup crumbled oatmeal cookie (or we used granola cereal). Place the oatmeal in one bag and the rest in another, and place in a foil tin for campfire baking. This one only stores well for a month or so, so keep that in mind. To include serving instructions, add a tag that says to serve you will add 3/4 cup of water to the apple mixture, and let stand for 15 minutes. Cook for about 10 minutes over the fire (or on the stove on low) and once apple reach the desired softness, add the cookie crumble and serve. 

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All prepared in its tin.

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Those are all the gifts from the kitchen that we made in class, but there are numerous other things that you could gift. One example I posted earlier was flavoured vinegar. A lovely pairing to this would be a salad dressing mixer. I have a very similar one to the one linked here (couldn’t find the exact one) and I love it. When I try and mix salad dressing by hand I often find I get too much oil onto my salad and not enough vinegar, so this is one of those silly toys I once bought myself. There are also some fun bottles with recipes on them, but I can’t vouch for the recipes so much because I always make my own with a lot less sugar. 

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Another thing I did last year to give some of my favourite things (with a jar theme of course) was to give people my favourite teas in a ball jar. Pick up some different loose leaf teas from Mountain Rose Herbs, or your favourite local tea shop, and perhaps include a little tea ball with it. OK, that’s all I have for now, and I need to get to bed, so I hope you are feeling inspired! I just wanted to end with a couple of final thoughts for purchasable gifts for the culinarily (ya that’s not a word) inclined people in your life. I really enjoy The Flavor Bible, which is a book full of tons of inspiring flavor combinations. It’s not recipes, but basically a fun index of the best flavor combinations for every type of food out there. It’s inspired a number of great recipes for me and was a great birthday gift last year. Of course for the canners in your life I am always a fan of the classics for safe and tested recipes, which are also of course delicious and amazing: The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, or the smaller Ball Blue Book. Or the newly released (I just got it finally yay!) So Easy to Preserve. Last but not least, my second favourite way to preserve is dehydrating, so I would recommend both dehydrators and The Dehydrator Bible as excellent gifts. Happy gifting, thanks for reading, and enjoy your cyber Monday! Remember as always if you purchase something from one of my links I’ll receive a small amount of commission in return (see “About the Blogger” for more info), but as always I only link to products I love and truly recommend so I thank you in advance if you decide to invest in any of these items.

Cranberry Mustard

Do you have a bunch of cranberries left over from your thanksgiving feast? This cranberry mustard would be a really simple and tasty way to use them up! I bought a few pounds of local cranberries last week at the final outdoor farmers market of the season, and made a bunch of homemade cranberry juice, but I also wanted to try something new with them. As usual, I popped open my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and found this cranberry mustard recipe that looked super intriguing. They also have a cranberry ketchup by the way, if you have the book. Look at how gorgeous it is! Ball recommends it on ham, so that’s my first plan for it.  I also brought it as a little gift to our hostess for thanksgiving (maybe a good idea for Christmas yes? )

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Ingredients:
1 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup yellow mustard seeds
1 cup water
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 3/4 cups cranberries
1/4 cup dry mustard
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or to taste)
2.5 tsp ground allspice

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Here’s how I made it:

The first thing you need to do is soak the mustard seeds in the vinegar. Bring the vinegar to a boil, remove from heat, add the mustard seeds, cover and let it sit until all the vinegar is absorbed – about an hour and a half.

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Prepare the canner, jars and lids. This yields about 7-8 4 oz jars, or 4 half pints. I ended up with 4 half pints a bit left over.

Dump the vinegar/mustard seed mixture into your food processor (I have this one) and add the water and Worcestershire sauce.

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Blend until the seeds are mostly crushed up but still retain a grainy texture. You can adjust the blended-ness to your preference.

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Then add the cranberries and blend again.

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Scoop the mixture into a pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and boil gently. Add the ground mustard, sugar, and allspice. If you’d like to do less or no sugar, taste it before adding it and see what you think. I actually thought it tasted great before I added the sugar and allspice. At this point Ball said to boil until the mixture is reduced by a third, but mine was already crazy thick so I boiled for about 5 minutes and called it good.

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Fill your hot jars with mustard, leaving a quarter inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and tighten finger tip tight. Place the jars in a boiling water bath canner covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Process for 10 minutes once the water is boiling.

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After the 10 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, wipe, label, and store.

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Inferno Wine Jelly

The other pepper jelly we tried out from Ball the same night as the habanero jelly was this inferno wine jelly. I think with the combo of jalapeno peppers and red bell peppers in it, it will make a perfect jelly to have a a Christmas wine and cheese party. So pretty.

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Ingredients:
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper
2 dried chopped hot chili peppers
1.5 cups sweet white wine (ball suggests Sauternes but anything will work)
3 tbsp lemon juice
3.5 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin

And here’s how we made it:

Prepare the canner, jars and lids. This recipe yields about 7 4oz. jars.

Combine the peppers, wine and lemon juice. Feel free to use milder peppers if you don’t want an “inferno.” You can also decide whether to seeded the dried chilies, or omit them altogether. Make sure you use a deep pot for this. This pot barely cuts it because the jelly boils very vigorously and can easily boil over if your pot is too shallow.

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Stir in the sugar. So lovely! Bring the jelly to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. If you have a fan, have it on. If you have an assistant, have them ready to fan. Boy does this go crazy. Once at the rolling boil stir in the pectin. Boil hard for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.

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Quickly skim off any foam and fill your hot jars, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and tighten the bands finger tip tight. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner, covered by at least an inch of water. After the 10 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel.

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As with the habanero jelly, you can gently twist or tilt the jars after they are sealed to get a nice particle suspension. Just no shaking or inverting the jars, that can affect your seal, so just be very gentle. I didn’t do as nice of a job here, but oh well, still a lovely jelly. Cool the jars 12-24 hours, remove the bands, check the seals, wipe, label and store.

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Spicy Tomato Vegetable Soup

I first made this soup back in the pressure canning week of my Master Food Preserver class, and I could not wait until tomato season rolled around so I could stock up on this deliciousness. This soup is so good, and I just love that every ingredient is in season right now, which means every ingredient I either grew or picked within 10 miles of my house. That’s the best! This recipe is from So Easy to Preserve, which by the way is now out with its newest edition if you’re looking to get your hands on that. I just ordered a couple copies for myself and others. 🙂

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Ingredients:
6 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped tomatillos
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped and seeded hot pepper
6 cups whole kernel corn, uncooked
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp hot pepper sauce
5 cups tomato juice
2 cups water

Here’s how we made it:

Chop, chop, chop, and chop some more. But really, that’s basically all there is to it. When I made this recipe at home by myself I got a hand cramp from too much chopping, so invite a friend over for goodness sake. For the tomatoes, core, blanch and peel them before chopping. For the tomatillos, remove them from the husk, wash and chop them without peeling. For the onions and carrots just peel and wash them and chop them into soup sized pieces. Wash and seed the peppers and use gloves to cut up the hot ones. For the corn, either cut it off the cob and measure 6 cups, or use frozen corn.

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Combine all the veggies in a large stockpot. Add in the tomato juice, water, and all the seasonings. For the tomato juice, you can either make juice by pressing some tomatoes through a food strainer, or use store bought. I bet you can guess which one I prefer. I think that the ratio of solids to liquids in this soup is a bit off, so it could probably use more like 6 or 7 cups of tomato juice. And just to justify this, the reason I think it’s OK to adjust the recipe in this way is because these are the National Center’s soup recommendations. The processing is the same with whatever combo of foods you have, unless you add seafood, and they just say to cover with liquid. Plus, tomato juice is the most liquidy and most acidic ingredient in this recipe. Anyways, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. While the soup is simmering, prepare your canner, jars and lids. This yields about 9 -10 pints of soup.

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When it comes time to fill the hot jars, it’s important to follow these instructions for filling them to ensure safe processing. Using a slotted spoon, fill the jars about half full with solids. The head space for the soup is going to need to be a full inch, so when filling halfway, keep in mind that you should be filling it halfway to that point. After the jars are half full with solids, fill them with liquid, leaving an inch head space.

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Such pretty jars.

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Remove air bubbles, adjust head space, wipe rims, and apply the lids and bands, tightening to finger tip tight.  Place the jars in your pressure canner with 3 quarts of water and begin heating the canner. Once all the jars are in the canner, close and lock the lid and get the canner heated up. Once your canner starts to vent a steady stream of steam, continue to vent for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, apply the weight. Bring the canner up to 11 pounds of pressure (10 for weighted gauge; sea level). The processing time for this recipe is 60 minutes for pints or 75 minutes for quarts. Begin the timer once at or above the correct pressure, and maintain that pressure throughout the canning time. After the processing time is complete, turn off the burner and carefully remove the canner from the heat. Wait until the pressure is completely returned to zero and the safety nubbin thing drops. Remove the weight, wait 10 more minutes, and then remove the lid of the canner and remove your jars to a hot pad or towel.

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While the jars can, eat any leftovers that you had.

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Ta-da! Gorgeous soup. And so damn delicious. After 12-24 hours, remove the bands, check the seals, wipe clean, label and store. Then repeat a week later because this soup is super good.

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Pickling experiment – the results are in!

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In case you missed it, a few weeks ago I wrote a post about two ways that you can keep your pickles good and crispy when making quick pickles. That post can be found here, and if you missed it just head over and read that, I pasted this entire post there as well. So, I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat wondering what the results of this experiment would show, so here they are. As a reminder, what I did was 5 different pickles. The pickles were all the same spices and brine, it was the processing that differed. The first 4 were all canned as slices, the fifth was canned whole and sliced for the taste test so people couldn’t tell which one was canned whole. I randomly assigned them to a number 1 though 5 for people to taste test.

1. Boiling water bath, no pickle crisp
2. Low temperature pasteurization, no pickle crisp
3. Low temperature pasteurization with pickle crisp
4. Boiling water bath with pickle crisp
5. Low temperature pasteurization with pickle crisp canned whole

For this taste test I had 17 people test the pickles and rate them from least to most crisp. I wasn’t entirely sure how to analyze the data from the taste test, but some of the results are pretty obvious and exciting. I am going to just give you a few summary statistics that I really think give a pretty clear answer, and I’ve also included all the ratings in case you are really that interested. First off, I wanted to show a picture of the four sliced ones, because even visually some of them looked more crisp, at least to me. Below the jars are in the order listed above, so the two ends were boiled, and the middle two were processed at low temperatures. Can you see a difference? This picture was taken 5 weeks after processing. I think that even visually the boiled ones look soggier. They are a different colour and more translucent.

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So how did it break out in terms of numbers? The first obvious result was that 16/17 people put sample 5 as the most crisp sample. So, by canning your pickles whole, with low temperature pasteurization, you get a very crunchy, firm product. Great! Now let’s ignore number 5 for a second since it had an additional variable of being canned whole. 10/17 people chose sample 1 as the softest, and 6/17 chose sample 4 as the softest. This totals to 16/17 people chosing one of the boiled ones as the soggiest. Additionally, of the sliced ones, 13/17 people selected sample 3 as the most crisp, which was the low temperature with pickle crisp sample. Now, I didn’t run any actual stats, but I feel pretty confident saying this: Low temperature pasteurization for the win!! There was not one person that had sample 1 (boiled, no pickle crisp) as anything other than the soggiest or second soggiest. I also thought it was really interesting that Janice, our canning teacher, rated them in the exact order that I would predict. From soggiest to crispest: boiled without pickle crisp, boiled with pickle crisp, low temperature without pickle crisp, low temperature with pickle crisp, low temp with pickle crisp canned whole. Pretty fun! So the method of processing, low temp versus boiling, was detectable by most people. Some people could detect a difference with the pickle crisp, but this result was not as ground breaking. I’d like to test it again, with more people and try doing a boiled one canned whole and a few other things, but I think for now it’s safe to say I will be canning the rest of my pickling cucs at low temps and using pickle crisp. They still turn out well if you don’t can them whole, even though most people picked that for ultimate crispness, but you can also fit less in a jar. So there ya have it! Go can some pickles at 180 F!!

In case you’re crazy like me, here’s everyone’s ratings (least to most crunchy/crisp):

1 4 2 3 5
4 1 2 3 5
4 1 3 2 5
1 2 4 5 3
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Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are probably my third favourite way to preserve tomatoes, after making salsa and tomato sauce. It is one way that I try to preserve them every year though, because crushed tomatoes can be used for such a wide array of dishes. I use a lot of the jars to make chili throughout the winter, and crushed tomatoes are also great for soups, stews, sauces, you name it!

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Two great publications to refer to for tomato products are this USDA guide, and and PNW 300. Keep in mind that you can both raw and hot pack tomatoes, and that there are guidelines for both hot water bath canning them, or for pressure canning them. Hot packing and pressure canning will of course require the shortest processing time, whereas cold or raw packing and hot water bath canning takes the longest. For example, if you raw pack whole or halved tomatoes, they need to be water bath canned for 85 minutes! So you may want to consider cracking out the pressure canner for whole packs, as the processing time is only 25 minutes. Nice to have options though, isn’t it? This time, I did a hot pack of crushed tomatoes. Typically, this is how I use tomatoes anyways, so it’s the way I most commonly preserve them. It’s a shorter processing time than packing them whole, and produces a very nice product.

Here’s how its done! First I cored and blanched them.

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Then threw them in cold water to cool them off. Peel and cut the tomatoes in quarters. If you are doing a big batch, check out this post by Erica, from Northwest Edible Life, one of my very favourite blogs. She shows her strategy for blanching and peeling large batches of tomatoes.

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Mash about a quart or so of the tomatoes in a large pot and bring them to a boil. You want enough in there and mashed that you fill your pot 2-3 inches deep. Once at a boil, continue to add quartered tomatoes slowly to the pot, stirring frequently. After you have a good layer of crushed ones, just stir the rest in without crushing them. Wait until it returns to a boil, add more, and so on until all the tomatoes are in the pot. You’ll need about a pound or pound and a quarter per pint, so if you are aiming for a full 7 quart batch, you’ll want at least 14 pounds. The PNW publication says 2.75 pounds per quart, which might be a little bit high, but in the ballpark of 15 -18 pounds should equal a canner load. Meanwhile, prepare your canner, jars and lids. I think it’s worth it to do a full batch since the processing time will be 45 minutes. If you do a whole pack and an 85 minute processing time you had better be doing a full load or you’re just silly.

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Once all the tomatoes are added, maintain a boil for 5 minutes, then fill your hot jars. Make sure to acidify your tomatoes when filling the jars. This means adding either 1/2 tsp per quart of citric acid or 2 tbsp per quart of bottled lemon juice. I like to just add it to every jar first so that I don’t have a chance of forgetting. Remember that this is an important step because tomatoes are on the borderline of pH levels safe for hot water bath canning, so the extra touch of acid ensures that you will have a safe, botulism free product. Also as a note when filling jars. What I like to do is use a slotted spoon to get the crushed pieces that stayed more in tact, and fill jars first with those. But still make sure you have enough liquid in there so it’s still a good crushed tomato pack. Doing it this way I label my later jars as being more runny, and use them for purposes such as soup, and the others where I want more of a meaty product. If you have juice left over at the end, use this to make up some sauce or something. I threw my leftover juice in the freezer to use this weekend when I make a big batch of spaghetti sauce.

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Place the jars in the hot water bath canner, covered by at least 2 inches of water, and bring to a full rolling boil. When processing for these long processing times, if your canner barely fits your jars you may need to add water part way through. Especially if you are doing 85 minutes, water will boil off. Bring some water to a boil on another burner and add it to your canner if too much water is boiling off. Alternatively, pressure can the tomatoes at 11 pounds of pressure (sea level) for 15 minutes (25 if doing a whole or half pack, or a raw pack). With venting for 10 minutes, bringing the canner up to pressure, and waiting for the pressure to return to zero, it probably doesn’t actually save a ton of time, but there still could be an argument made for pressure canning being easier. I think I will try to pressure can some whole ones shortly and let you know how it goes. After 45 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, check seals, label and store.

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Sometimes you can get a little separation occurring in your jars like in the image below. This isn’t something you need to worry about though, it’s just because the tomatoes were boiling in the jar so the solids were pushed up to the top. Once the jar is completely cooled and you have checked the seal, give it a little shake and mix the liquids and solids back together.

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After a little shake it looks perfect. Label, store and enjoy all winter long.

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Two in One Barbecue Sauce

Oh Ball, you have out done yourself on this one. This recipe, from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, makes two awesome barbecue sauces, a stampede style sauce, and a sweet and sour sauce. Make both, or just make one. Left  is the stampede style, and right is the sweet and sour.

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Ingredients:
Base:
16 cups seeded, peeled, pureed tomatoes
2 1/4 cups seeded, pureed green bell peppers
2 cups pureed onions
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp mustard seeds, crushed
1 tbsp celery seeds
2 dried chili peppers, seeded and crushed

Stampede-Style ingredients:
3/4 cup mild flavored or fancy molasses
3/4 cup malt vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger root
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups canned crushed pineapple, with juice

Here’s how to make it. Just as a note, since I was slightly confused until I reach the sidebar. This recipe is designed to make 6 pints, 3 of each type of sauce. So, if you just want to make one of the sauces, you’ll want to make the base sauce, and then double the ingredients from the one that you want to make. Otherwise what we’ll be doing is making the base, then splitting it into two pots and making 3 pints of each sauce.

Step 1. Puree the tomatoes. Of course, this is much easier with a food strainer, like this Victorio Strainer pictured below. If you don’t have one though, never fear. Peel and seed your tomatoes, and them blend them to puree. Or just buy a strainer.

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For this endeavor, Kiki had texted me that she had scored some tomatoes for dirt cheap, and asked if would I help her process them. I was thinking she’d probably have a small box we could just add to the sauce I was already making, but she showed up with a giant box that I now wish that I had weighed. We had a TON of puree when we finished, and through some ridiculous canning miracle it was actually almost exactly 32 cups, so we doubled the recipe.

While you prepare the rest of the ingredients you’ll want to get the tomato puree going on the stove so that it will reduce down to make you a nice thick sauce. Add some of it to a large stainless steel pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Gradually add in more puree, maintaining the boil and stirring constantly, until it’s all in the pot. Continue to boil for at least an hour, or until reduced by about a half. If you are just doing a relaxing session, reduce the heat and let it simmer away for a while. If you want to reduce it faster, you could also divide it up into multiple pots for a while, and recombine it later.

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Meanwhile, puree the onions in the blender. The best way to get it going if you just have a normal old crappy blender is to cut some of them quite finely at the beginning, so that you can get some liquid onion. Once you’ve got a bit already pureed you can add pieces that are a bit bigger. Don’t mistake this concoction for a piña colada. It sure looks like one, but would certainly not go down so smooth.

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Next you want to puree the peppers, following the same procedure. We used almost all green but had a small red one too you can see we threw in there. Looks pretty nasty at this stage.

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After the tomatoes are fairly well reduced, add in the pureed peppers and onions. You’ll want everything in one pot now if you had separated it into multiple pots. Add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce base, the garlic, mustard seeds, celery seeds and crushed chili pepper. We found it kind of difficult to crush the mustard seeds, so used some but then also topped it off with ground mustard. I feel like you’d want less ground, not a 1:1 change out, but ground is definitely an option.

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Cook this down for at least 10 more minutes, until the peppers and onions are cooked. When you are happy with the base sauce, it’s time to divide and conquer. Take out half and put it into a different pot.

Below is the stampede style sauce first. Add all the ingredients for it to one of your pots.

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The other sauce is the sweet and sour sauce. Add all the ingredients for this sauce to your second pot. Continue to boil both mixtures gently, stirring frequently. You want to achieve the consistency of a thin commercial sauce, which will take about 45 minutes. However, I always tend to reduce things longer than Ball suggests, so use your judgement for a barbecue sauce consistency.

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While they continue to cook down, prepare the canner, jars and lids. you will likely get a bit more of the sweet and sour sauce, since it has more added ingredients. Probably close to 3 pints for the stampede and 4 for the sweet and sour, depending of course how long you reduce it for. Once it’s ready, fill your hot jars with hot sauce, leaving a half inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight. Place the jars in a boiling water bath canner covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Process for 20 minutes, starting the time when a full rolling boil is reached.

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After 20 minutes, turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, check seals, wipe clean, label and store.

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Two beautiful and delicious sauces. Stampede on the left in the Ball jar. A slightly spicy, peppery sauce, and sweet and sour on the right in the Kerr. I must admit I was much more excited for the stampede style, but that sweet and sour is also to die for. I highly recommend making both. If you are also looking for an awesome ketchup recipe, check out my country western ketchup post from last summer. Happy canning!

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